By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
We recently reported of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdoğan’s effort to silence the social media service Twitter to repress dissent within Turkey. HERE. Now, the courts in Turkey are beginning to reverse some of these efforts. Turkish Twitter users are expected to regain access to the microblogging platform after a local court issued a stay of execution on last week’s decision by a local telecommunications authority to ban the website.
According to some local media reports, the ban will be lifted as soon as the administrative court in Ankara informs Turkey’s Telecommunications Authority of the ruling.
In a first official remark, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arinç said the Turkish government would implement the court ruling. “We will implement the court’s decision. We might not like the court decision, but we will carry it out,” he told reporters.
The microblogging site was blocked on Friday, only hours after Turkey’s Prime Minister, Recep Erdoğan, vowed to “eradicate” Twitter in an election speech. The website has been used to disseminate a series of apparently incriminating audio recordings suggesting massive corruption inside the Turkish government.
Several complaints were filed contesting the ban, and Turkish bar associations harshly criticized the block as unlawful and unconstitutional.
Twitter on Wednesday said it had handed in petitions for lawsuits challenging the ban, while also starting to suspend content in compliance with Turkish court orders. According to the Turkish daily Hürriyet, the account @oyyokhirsize (“no vote for the thief”) was not accessible anymore from Turkey. In a statement on the company’s official blog, general counsel Vijaya Gadde confirmed Twitter had, for the first time in Turkey, used a tool to block access to an account accusing a former minister of corruption while it contested a court order to take it down.
The statement, which underlined that the company did not disclose any user data to the Turkish government, urged the immediate lifting of the ban: “With all announced bases for the access ban addressed, there are no legal grounds for the blocking of our service in Turkey. Furthermore, with positive developments today concerning judicial review of this disproportionate and illegal administrative act of access banning the whole of Twitter, we expect the government to restore access to Twitter immediately so that its citizens can continue an open online dialogue ahead of the elections to be held at the end of this week.”
Another Victory for Twitter
In a second ruling against Turkey’s ban on Twitter, a Turkish court has overturned an order for the social media network to remove an account that accuses a former minister of corruption, reports said Saturday.
Twitter, which is challenging the ban in Turkish courts, announced late Friday that a court in Istanbul had ruled in its favor over the account that accuses former Transport Minister Binali Yıldırım of corruption. It called the decision a “win for freedom of expression.”
Yildirim’s lawyer confirmed the ruling on Saturday, adding that it would be appealed.
The bans were not without dissent in senior leadership of the Turkish Government. Many tech-savvy users, including President Abdullah Gül, have found ways of circumventing the ban on both Twitter and YouTube.
President Gül last week flouted the ban by using his Twitter account to post a series of tweets critical of the blockage. On Friday, his office posted a video on YouTube, in which he is heard speaking against the leak of the secret security meeting and calling for those responsible to be caught and punished
These free speech victories for Twitter and its customers may show that there may still be redress against leadership decisions of many nations. But it also serves as a reminder that freedom of speech and the press must be one that is constantly challenged and the fight for these civil rights will continue to be necessary.
By Darren Smith
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